Red Sox

McAdam: Red Sox a house divided?

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McAdam: Red Sox a house divided?

BOSTON -- "Toxic'' -- the word used by ESPN.com's Buster Olney to describe the Red Sox clubhouse dynamic -- may have been too strong a phrase.
But at the very least, emerging details of the 2012 Red Sox reveal the organization to be somewhat dysfunctional at nearly every level, more closely resembling a soap opera than a successful team.
Club insiders paint a picture of a handful of alientated players, a detached manager, an absentee ownership and a general manager caught in-between.
Numerous sources indicated that the relationship between teammates is better than some would expect for a club that has gone through the upheavel the Sox have experienced since last September.
As might be expected with a high-profile manager like Bobby Valentine, there's a divided opinion among the players. Some have no problem with his managing style, preferring to do their job and avoid conflict.
Others are not so accepting of Valentine, to the point, in one case, of openly challenging him. And a number are unhappy with the lack of communication from the manager's office.
One player involved in a transaction this season, for instance, learned of his fate through the team's Twitter feed. Others dislike his unwillingness to tell players ahead of time that they won't be in the lineup the next days.
"That,'' acknowledged one player generally supportive of Valentine, "is not fair.''
Valentine's style is about as different from his predecessor, Terry Francona, as could be imagined. While Francona interracted with players and valued communication, Valentine takes more of an old-school approach, feeling little need -- as he himself said on the first weekend of the regular season -- to inform the players of every lineup adjustment ahead of time.
Of course, one of the reasons that Valentine was hired was precisely (italics please) because (end italics) he was the polar opposite of Francona. While the latter was very much a player's manager -- to his detriment in 2011, when players tuned him out and took advantage of his trusting nature -- Valentine is known as a button-pusher, capable of tweaking players publicly in order to motivate or merely to make his point.
Perhaps Valentine's reclusive nature is somewhat understandable. Sources indicate that, following his infamous remark aimed at Youkilis in April, the manager felt he didn't get the support of management. Indeed, GM Ben Cherington publicly sided with Youkilis.
Moreover, a source said Valentine was told to apologize to Youkilis, though it's unclear who made that demand.
And because hiring Valentine wasn't Cherington's idea in the first place -- CEO and president Larry Lucchino invited Valentine into the process, then strongly advised his first-year GM to hire him -- there's a perception that the Sox are a house divided.
Sensing this, some players unhappy with Valentine have taken their complaints to Cherington, who must act as a mediator.
Finally, there's ownership, which, over the years, has gone from present and involved to increasingly distracted by other business interests. While the ownershipupper management troika of Lucchino, John Henry and Tom Werner make themselves visible at high-profile series such as last weekend's three-game set at Wrigley Field or the 100th Fenway Park anniversary in April, they're not nearly as visible as before when the club won two championships in ownership's first six years.
Fairly or not, some around the club see the owners as less immersed in the day-to-day operation of the club, and more preoccupied by other investments.
"It used to be,'' said one player, "that owners used to know everything was going on around here. Now, they have to hear about it from others.''

How Martinez rose from ashes of Astros release to Red Sox stardom

How Martinez rose from ashes of Astros release to Red Sox stardom

Good things come to those who wait. And while it’s hard to knock the results of the Houston Astros’ “process,” a new piece from Sports Illustrated details how J.D. Martinez has them wishing they waited a little longer.

Coming off an age-25 season that saw him hit just .250 with a .650 OPS, Martinez was desperate to change in 2013. After all, with limited speed and a below-average glove, Martinez’s bat was his livelihood.

“J.D., you’re not even a career .700 OPS hitter,” said then-Astros hitting coach John Mallee. “You don’t steal bags. You’re not a Gold Glover. You have to hit… You can make enough money to live off of, at least until you become too expensive to keep around. But that’s it. Unless you change something.”

After studying perennial All-Stars like Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, and Ryan Braun, Martinez realized his entire swing needed an overhaul, and turned to Astros teammate Jason Castro for advice. Martinez’s journey with Castro is a long one, taking him from Houston to California to Venezuela and, finally, to Kissimmee, Florida, home of the Astros’ Spring Training complex.  

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With a new swing in his toolbox, a revamped enthusiasm and energy, and a desperation to prove himself, all Martinez needed was an opportunity. But the Astros didn't oblige. Houston -- coming off a 111-loss season -- released Martinez after just 18 exhibition at-bats, not even seeking anything in return. Martinez couldn't make the worst team in the league.

Instead of sulking, however, Martinez was motivated -- driven to make the Astros' lack of confidence in his adjustments haunt them.

"You guys are going to see me," Martinez told Houston teammates José Altuve and Dallas Keuchel after being released. "Don't worry about it. I'll be good. I promise you."

Martinez caught on with the Detroit Tigers and the rest, as they say, is history. He used his new swing to slug his way to the top of a myriad of offensive categories and now, four years after being released, there is perhaps no more feared slugger in baseball than Martinez, who has two more home runs (37) than his team has losses (35).

Martinez’s road to the top has been long, but serves as a reminder that in a sport increasingly driven by data, the game is played by humans, and not even the most thorough algorithms can compute a human’s drive to succeed.

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